Your first book is published. Fame at last! Followed swiftly by fortune, one hopes. But will your publisher help you along the way to fame? Unlikely, unless you’re already famous. This article outlines the truth of book marketing for unknown authors, but be prepared for unvarnished truth you might find deeply depressing.
All that effort to get the book written, perfected, and published… and the copies sit on the warehouse shelves waiting for the news to get out. Book signings, lit festivals, blog tours, press releases, book trailers, social media campaigns, celeb endorsements, reviews… the publisher’s job, yes?
No. For an unknown first-timer, no. Publishers’ marketing budgets go on big name authors, not newbies. A hard fact of the writing life.
It turns out that all these promotional schemes and scams might boost your ego, but they don’t do much for book sales. Really, not much at all. And avoid book signings unless you have a guaranteed ready-made audience waiting to queue for your signature. Every author has horror stories about the echoing loneliness of book signings.
Bottom line: write the book, outline the sequels, find the agent, get the publishing deal. Swig back the bubbly, then prepare for the slog of flogging your book without much help from your publisher or the uninterested media and book-buying public. You need to be thick-skinned, innovative and ruthless to get your name known and your book talked about. It can be done. You can do it.
I’m so grateful to my long-time friend Lesley Cookman for revealing some of the secrets of a bestselling novelist‘s life. Read today’s guest blog to see what you have in common with her, and get a sneak preview of the cover of her next book (which won’t be published for months yet).
Lesley is the author of the Libby Serjeant series of murder mysteries, with the eighteenth recently published – Murder by the barrel. Each new book whizzes to the top of its category on the Amazon bestseller charts, but despite Lesley’s success, the writing life is still not easy. But it is rewarding… Read Lesley’s guest blog here – and do ask questions in the ‘comments’ bit!
You have the blockbusting idea.
You know all the novel-writing techniques.
Your favourite cousin works for a publisher.
You have all the gizmos and apps that a writer could ever want.
Your characters zap, your dialogue zings.
But you can’t get down to writing the actual, chapter-by-chapter, 80,000 word manuscript.
You want to, you yearn to, you’re excited about it… but you can’t find the time. You can’t find the motivation. HOW DO AUTHORS DO IT?
All published writers – authors, journalists, scriptwriters, dramatists – will tell you this unhelpful secret:
“Just apply your bottom to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard.”
Gee, thanks. But they’re right. It’s the only thing to do. So here are 14 ways to trick yourself, persuade yourself, bully yourself, cajole yourself into doing it. Try them all. See which works best, and stick to it.
Commit money to your book: commission a cover illustration or hire an editor.
Go on a weekend writing retreat to get yourself started. After a weekend’s dedicated work in the company of other writers, you’ll be in the flow.
So, tell me – how do you motivate yourself? What gets you to the keyboard and the top of Page 1?
…illustrated children’s book. This is a great insight into some of the challenges and solutions for writers itching to get their story told: a piece by Michael Gallant for the BookBaby blog. Read, then get writing!
The whole process of travel – on public transport, not in a car – is fraught with opportunity for storytellers.
Four flights and two train journeys in three days have made me think about the possibilities for mystery, murder, suspense and romance in the confusion of airports and stations.
Alfred Hitchcock made the most of trains in several movies, and there is the glorious example of The Lady Vanishes. Arthur Haley’s Airport, milked the drama of air travel, and the spoof Airplane! and its sequels milked the comedy potential… to the very last drop. We already have a long list of travellers’ tales, but there is plenty of scope for the rest of us.
Think of the numbers of people at any one moment in a big airport. Staff and travellers must add up to tens of thousands of people on the move; a clever murderer could kill and get away with it, even with the hundreds of cameras watching every twitch and grimace.
The romance of two people in transit, a fleeting encounter, infinite futures… the potential is limitless. An airport sees people from everywhere in the world; the poor and the rich, the celebrated and the anonymous – crossing paths in limbo, where so much is out of their control.
Airports are ideas factories. Ferries, too. The best time to watch is in the early hours, where travellers wait for hours, too tired to pretend, sleepy, out of sorts, too hot or too cold, bored and frustrated. One can spend happy hours dreaming up their stories, earwigging on their monosyllabic conversations, wondering what if and what next.
Next time you fly, give yourself extra time between connections to watch, listen and dream.